Here are this month’s catch-up reviews of some wonderful Albums, and an EP, released in June/July 2022 and out now! Have a listen to the eclectic sounds of: Goon, Revelators, Diamanda La Berge Dramm, Social Union and Julian Tenembaum.

Goon ‘Hour of Green Evening’
Released on Demode Recordings (CD and Download)

When I first heard the wonderful single ‘Ochre’ I thought the band had a girl singer! However, the possessor of this fine voice is non-other than bandleader Kenny Becker. His voice is a laid-back instrument of calm wonder as he explores memories of childhood juxtaposed with the ups and downs of adult life. Nature and its cycle of decay and renewal form a backdrop to the lyrics – hope ever present like summer rain falling overnight to welcome a fresh day.

The songs have a melodic complexity and melancholic, but uplifting, emotional heft. Shifting between melodic rock-folk and shoe gaze pretension they create a psychedelic haze of hot summer, broken only once by lightning storms as the singer lets out a scream amid a deluge of distorted guitar on the Pixies-like ‘Wavy Maze’.

The more I listened to the album the more I wanted to listen again. It took a few plays to sink its teeth into my psyche but then I couldn’t get enough. Sitting somewhere between Mercury Rev, Midlake and the Pale Saints, this is one of my favourite albums so far, this year. All the tracks are great – the melodies play in the mind long after the record has ended.

Key Tracks: ‘Angel Number 1210’, ‘Buffalo’, ‘Emily says’, ‘Ochre’, ‘Last Light On’.

Revelators ‘Revelators Sound System’
Released on 37d03d Records (Vinyl, CD and Download)

Revelators is a collaboration between singer MC Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger) and Cameron Ralston (bass player with the Spacebomb House Band). The album consists of four very different improvised and expressive instrumental jams incorporating free jazz expression – both modal and spiritual, funk-jazz fusion, cosmic meditation, tape loop manipulation and sumptuous Indian strings.

The first track ‘Grieving’ is a funk-flavoured jazz instrumental that references Miles Davis 1970’s funk jazz-fusion, in particular ‘On the Corner’. At 10 minutes and eleven seconds we get music that mixes funky clavichord with jazz bass, piano, electric keyboards, woodwind, tape looped guitar and loose funk-jazz drums. At around six minutes the drums drop out and, amid layers of space, we get echoing blues piano riffs, keyboard tinkles and manipulated tape loops that create a certain ambience which promises much, but fails to deliver on its potential, eventually going nowhere.

The second track, ‘Collected Water’, comes over like a small trio from the late 50s or early 60s, spaced out on drugs, playing cosmic modal jazz. J C Kuhl’s saxophone overshadows brushed drums, double bass and piano – the night alive with echo, memories reverberating in dream, until the cold roar of daylight penetrates the astral plane and dissolves the dream reality.

Track three, ‘Bury the Bell’ is an expansive semi-meditational, spiritual piece of music that recalls David Sylvians’ more meditative explorations of the Psyche. Gorgeous Indian strings combine with synth, guitar tape loop manipulation, clarinet and lap steel guitar to create a thing of beauty amid cosmic dissonance! Like music of the spheres heard in the mind, whilst viewing the spectacular Aurora Borealis or the whole Milky Way displayed in a clear night sky! The final track ‘George the Revelator’ is an epic piece of progressive Spiritual Jazz. Cinematic and uplifting, the swelling strings and clipped bass recall the soul-funk of David Axelrod’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Subtle wah-wah guitar, Fender Rhodes, bass and funky drums combine with saxophone and foregrounded strings to sublime effect. Just over half way through the loose rhythm leaves space for echoing snare and drum fills and reverberating talking sax, to create an illusionary dub landscape. The music continues to drive forward and develop, in the end producing a sublime imaginary film score, part Blaxploitation, part Pharoah Sanders.

A truly interesting and engrossing collaboration producing a fine album of funk-jazz fusion, experimental and cinematic Spiritual jazz.

Diamanda La Berge Dramm ‘Chimp’
Released on Diatribe Records (CD and Download)

This is strange record by the classically trained Dutch violinist in which she sings/talks while playing most of the music on, and sampling her own playing of, the violin. She makes the violin sound at times like a keyboard, synth, bass drum and so forth. Whilst she is undoubtedly a master of her instrument, here she makes minimal avant-garde music set to compliment and highlight the words of British poet and writer Steven J Fowler. The theme seems to be around monkeys, the workings of the brain and humanity itself.

Her voice, at times, has hints of Kristin Hersh, such as on the standout track ‘Chimp is Who’. At other times, on tracks like ‘Orangut the Orangutan’ her voice has traces of a more reserved but still ‘mad as a hatter’ Joanna Newsome! The songs are separated by the sound of falling rain, birds and other found sounds. In its conceptual arrangement it probably has some common ground with Costello’s ‘The Juliet Letters’. However, this is Art and as such may only appeal to a select few.

Key tracks: ‘Chimp is Who’, ‘Born’, ‘Orangut the Orangutan’, ‘Voices’.

Julian Tenembaum ‘Fragmentos’  
Released on Schole Records (CD and download)

The debut album by Argentinian composer Julian Tenembaum, Fragmentos is an album of nine modern classical compositions for piano. The music is melodic and holds the listeners interest throughout, the pianist having studied and absorbed the style and compositional skill of many of the old and new masters of piano. Sometimes it is easy to see the influence of a particular composer on a piece. ‘Nocturno’ reminds me very much of ‘Porz Goret’ by Yann Tiersen in the way it is played and the melodic progression. ‘1-13 swd’ reveals the influence of Hans Zimmer’s Inception movie theme. However, both pieces are not copies they merely show that the composer has been listening to and absorbing some of the best music around.

It is a tribute to the pianist’s compositional skill and way with melody that the music is original but still makes one think they have heard the melody somewhere before. ‘Eclipse’ put me in mind of ‘The Theme’ from The Deer Hunter, while ‘Fragmentos’ has echoes of both Satie and Billy Mackenzie‘s ‘Nocturne Seven’.

This is a wonderful melodic album that will appeal to fans of Yann Tiersen, Roger Eno, Nils Frahm, Satie, Debussy and Agnes Obel even.

Social Union ‘Fall into Me’ EP
Released July 2022 on Blackjack Illuminist Records (CD, Cassette, and Download)

The four-song debut EP by Social Union sounds like it could have been recorded in the early to mid 1980s! A repetitive cheap drum machine and burbling bass synth, topped with effects laden guitar and jolting synth melodies, underpin cold, distant girl vocals of a certain frosty charm. Goth, Darkwave, Industrial and dark-pop combine in an outsider stance – all black on black! Numan meets the Sisters of Mercy and early Cocteau Twins on a late night, last bus home through Hulme (Manchester) circa 1983!

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